Renewable Crushes Fossils
I was recently interviewed on a podcast (details to be shared soon) and was asked about my favourite trends that I see in the Happy Eco News. I mentioned several major ones such as the rise of youth leaders, the divestment of the oil industry, and the ability of nature to heal if it is given the chance, but the one that always gets me pumped up is the rise of renewable energy generation.
This week’s number one position in the Weekly Top 5 is European Renewables Just Crushed Fossil Fuels. Here’s How It Happened. What an amazing time we live in. For centuries cities and countries have been burning coal for heating and cooking and more recently, for energy generation. The use of coal and other fossil fuels has caused a lot of damage though, and their business models are now beginning to show cracks. Calls for divestment of fossil fuel investments are echoing through major institutions such as banks, pension funds, and educational facilities. Even major organized religions and their affiliates have called for and begun divestment. The truth is, even in the oil-rich USA, most Americans (77%) say it’s more important for the United States to develop alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, than to produce more coal, oil and other fossil fuels, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Big energy generation projects are known to cost more to build and maintain, and now, major banks are pulling out, refusing to finance projects such as coal plants, and resource extraction. This is the tip of the iceberg; the public is increasingly becoming aware that the big carbon industry (or as I see it, the industry of destroying our climate), is not really worth supporting and a major US political candidate has stated he will end fossil fuel subsidies should his party represent the country. It makes sense when you look at the job numbers too – the fossil fuel industry employs around the same number of people but is expected to decline, while renewables are expected to gain jobs. Where would you invest tax dollars?
According to the Huffington Post: “Conservative estimates put the total for state and federal incentives at roughly $20 billion per year. An International Monetary Fund study published last year pegged the figure at $649 billion in 2015 alone. Roughly half of all U.S. oil reserves required subsidies to generate a profit, according to a study published in the journal Nature Energy in 2017, and that was before the price of crude plunged far below $50 a barrel.”
It is a lot of money to prop up a dying industry that is also killing the planet and the people on it.
For the first time, renewable energy has outpaced the use of fossil fuel in terms of the actual amount of energy produced in the European Union. It has happened before for short runs, a few weeks here and there, but this time it is sustained, having continued unstopped for six months, and is still going. The pandemic and social pressures are all playing a part in the shift, but the real motivator for long term adoption of renewable technology is simply one of economics. Electricity produced by renewable generation is already cheaper than that produced by coal or other fossil fuels. When you combine the hard costs with the less tangible (but very real) healthcare and other societal costs, renewables are tough to beat.
With the cost of renewables continuing to fall and the very real costs of burning fossil fuel only now becoming known by voters, the trend toward renewable energy will only accelerate. It sounds ridiculous to write these words, but maybe, just maybe we can end the idea of burning stuff just to make light. Burning stuff to make the lights go on seems so last century (maybe even neandertal), especially when we know there is an alternative.
I have hope, if only because we humans are clever, and we are survivors. We may be the only creatures on the planet that are smart enough to destroy it, but we are also the ones that are smart enough to reverse our direction, change our course and fix our mistakes. We humans seem to love to procrastinate and will avoid change and discomfort at almost any cost. When the discomfort of global warming becomes too great, we will turn our global attention to the task at hand and make the changes needed. In fact, it is already happening.
Happy Eco News, August 24, 2020
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